Betty G Applauds Refugees’ Contribution to Local Development
ADDIS ABEBA – Artist Betty G applauded refugees’ contribution to local development after visiting businesses in a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia.
The singer, who is also an ambassador to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), met with some of the refugees and their hosts in Melkadida area of the Somali region that hosts 219,284 refugees.
Both communities live and work together under innovative business schemes that are bringing economic benefits to Melkadida and helping to strengthen their bond, according to the UNHCR.
Betty G took her time to visit a furniture workshop owned and run by a Somali refugee, Musa Yussuf Burey.
‘No longer dependent’
Musa hires both refugees and Ethiopians in his workshop where they produce and sell cupboards, shelves, beds, and chairs to the two communities.
Musa told the Ethiopian celebrity that his business is doing well and that he no longer depends on humanitarian aid for his family’s sustenance.
“I’m now able to feed and provide a better education to my children and have a plan to help fellow refugees to become productive like me,” said the middle-aged father of five.
He is now mulling the option of expanding his business to include an ice-cream shop and a store for construction materials.
“By hiring Ethiopian workers and supplying the local market with furniture which would otherwise be purchased and transported from far away, Musa is positively contributing to the local economy in Melkadida,” Betty G said, adding that his story challenges the perception that refugees are a burden to their hosts.
She also visited a cold drinks shop providing water, soft drinks and juices and where people go to watch live European football on TV at night.
Hibo Abdi, the owner of the shop, told Betty G that she has a good number of customers from the refugee and host communities and is now able to provide for her family.
‘Refugee law’s Impact?’
“I can give my four children three meals a day and have some extra money for their clothing,” said Hibo who runs the business with her husband’s support.
Betty G also visited a teachers’ training college constructed by UNHCR with funding from the IKEA Foundation in the Dollo Ado Woreda (district).
The college provides young refugees and Ethiopians with the opportunity to become qualified teachers and to help shape the next generation of students.
The impetus for these and many other small businesses in the region comes from a microfinance project, funded by the Ikea Foundation which has invested 100 million USD over the last seven years to help refugees and Ethiopians thrive together.
Musa and Hibo borrowed 22,575 Br. or 787 USD and 20,000 or 697 USD, respectively, from the three-year-old financial institution and have already paid back their debts, with the option to borrow more based on viable business expansion plans.
Ethiopia has progressive refugee law that was adopted by the country’s Parliament in January this year. It allows refugees to obtain work permits, access primary education, and national financial services, such as banking, among other rights.
“The microfinance institution is a good way to fuel development in this remote rural location with no access to major financial services such as banks,” Betty G said, calling for more international support to promote joint refugee-host community business projects and help the two communities thrive together.